I had a lot to say yesterday about planning your tabletop for the maximum effect regarding the food you serve. It is true that the beginning of every year is a time that prompts us to think about New Year's Resolutions, so here's one for all of us: take inventory of your kitchen and linen cabinet.
You have a basic three in table linens: the round, the square and the oblong. A smaller category would be place mats and table runners. What you buy depends entirely on what you like. In my case, despite the fact that I have a beautiful old cherry-wood dining table, complete with leaves to make it longer, I usually cover it with tablecloths. That's probably because beautifully-designed patterns bring different colors and moods into my dining area.
But in reality I ought to find another home for the round and square tablecloths that I have. Why don't I do it? Well, what if I move or get another table? You know how we hang on to our stuff because it might come in handy someday? That's me, at least in the housewares department.
But in conversation with the priest of my church, who also works as a hospice chaplain, I find that anything that I could give away would be welcomed in the kitchens of local churches, hospices and shelters. And as I have been helping out in the kitchen of the Episcopal Church of St. Michael and All Angels in Tucson on Sunday mornings I have seen the many patterns and styles of the dishes that have been donated in the past. I know what I will do when I am ready to part with some of my stuff.
So there's a project for all of us: take inventory! What can you give away? If you are older, as I am, you might be thinking of hanging on to your less breakable treasures because they are less risky to move in boxes. Some couples downsize, and larger furniture might be candidates for a new home.
The pots and pans, dishes, cooking implements and gadgets in the kitchen are also up for consideration: how many salt and pepper grinders do I need? This is a perennial problem for me because I see things like that all the time that I would like to have because they are pretty or clever. So I end up with too many; right now I have my eye on a solid-copper pepper grinder that would, of course, live far longer than I will.
Meanwhile, I go to my neighborhood Fry's or Safeway Supermarket and in the spice section they now have a few lines of pre-filled grinders for salt, pepper and various spices. So do I even need the ones I already have? I don't claim to be able to answer that question for you when I am always dithering about it myself. But I do realize that I need to go through those shelves that line one wall of my kitchen and decide what I can live without (I could give away two of my four electric coffee makers, right?).
One thing I do know, though, is that for some reason, this process is never easy. Sorting through your possessions tends to bring back memories and force you to re-evaluate the way you are living. On top of that, we live in a society that is increasingly mobile, so much so that many young singles don't even want to collect possessions because of the hassle that moving will present.
I wish you luck and patience if you decide that it would be a good New Year's project to overhaul your kitchen. I am going to attempt it myself and I will be wondering how it is going for others, and I'll get the chance to talk it over with my friends at church. If we put our heads together I expect we'll share stories and grow closer.